Monday, June 23, 2008

Thank you for dancing

The girls are home. I told a co-worker this morning, “My agony ends today.” He laughed with me. Sure enough, everyone came home, and my “agony” ended, but the rush began. Our dear friends' daughter was married tonight. Their home, the location of the outdoor wedding, is not far from us, but the roads between us are shaded lanes that dip and heave through the countryside. On a rainy day, you cannot drive the shortest route because it is under water in two places. This afternoon, traffic heading to the lakes had slowed my commute home from the office. Still, through effort and cooperation the four of us left home early enough to arrive at the wedding on time.

We saw many old friends and acquaintances. We had not seen some for a decade or more. We may not see them for another decade again, but we have a common history and our lives sometime intersect. This is comforting. Our years in Iowa and Minnesota interrupted our Kansas City continuum, but here we are again — different — yet not too changed to sit among old friends.

Looking around, seeing the people we have known the longest or known the best, I realized that everyone carried in their history a major heartache or heartbreak. Some struggle daily against deep sorrow. Yet here we were together again to celebrate a marriage. All sadness lingering in hearts was set aside in favor of joy for two young people beginning their life together in holy matrimony.

After the short but compelling ceremony, the reception began. After eating, people began drifting onto the dance floor; Gabby was among them. She danced by herself mimicking the motions of others. Gabby does not know the bride or groom. She does not fully understand the wedding ceremony. Still, Gabby was drawn to the joy, and she danced. She reminded me of Claire several years ago. Daniel and I had taken 3-year old Claire to an outdoor concert at Peavey Plaza in Minneapolis. There she played in the fountains and danced with a homeless man to the rhythm of rock and blues. Human hearts of all ages and positions crave joy, and joy is a gift to share.

Tonight beneath the huge white tent people set aside the scars of their own pain and celebrated joy. Gabby joined them, but she danced alone. There was only one thing within my power to remedy Gabby's situation, and I walked onto the dance floor extending her my hand. When she saw me she ran to meet me. After a week at home alone, I was dancing with my youngest daughter. Such is joy. Dulcius ex aspirus, it is “sweeter after difficulty.”

Gabby and I had practiced dancing recently at City Market in Kansas City. It was not really dancing to me, it was navigating. I held both of her hands in mine as she walked in front of me. When I lowered her left hand and raised her right hand, she glided to the right through the crowd. When I lowered her right hand and raised her left, she glided to the left. When I pulled both hands up above her head, she stopped. When we reached a clearing among the throng of people, I lifted just one of her hands high in the air, and Gabby twirled. Certainly, there were more practical ways of controlling Gabby in a crowd, but none was quite as joyous.

At the reception, this was the dancing we knew, so this is the dance we danced. Because we had room to move, Gabby did much twirling. We left our offering of joy on the dance floor. Dancing beats sulking any day. Human hearts are captured by joy.

We stayed at the reception until the bride and groom left. We joined the throng in throwing rose petals at them as they ran the gauntlet to their car. When we arrived home, Claire and Gabby dressed for bed. Lisa and I relayed conversations that the other had missed. The stories we heard were not without heartache, but they were filled with faith and confidence. They were filled with the hope of joy.

When Gabby came downstairs for “Goodnight,” I leaned close to her, looked into her eyes, and said, “Thank you for dancing with me.” Gabby smiled sweetly and trotted off to bed.

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